- Write a Killer Professional Summary.
- Tailor Your Resume to the Job Description.
- Proofread Your Resume.
Writing a resume can be a painstaking process. You’ve probably written one before, but the opportunities to do so are often few and far between. It feels like you have to re-learn the process every time, especially as the job market evolves and hiring managers have different priorities than they did 10+ years ago.
Still, learning how to write a resume is something anyone can do, regardless of job experience. You don’t need to hire an expensive resume writer to create a winning resume that will get you noticed. Put the following resume writing tips into practice to land the job you deserve:
Step 1: Use a Resume Template
Resume templates can be extremely helpful when creating a new resume from scratch. It removes all of the guesswork regarding design and layout, including font choices and sizes. It also ensures you include all of the right information and leave no stone unturned.
You can download free resume templates online; however, try to avoid the ones that have watermarks that might make you look unprofessional. You can also purchase resume templates for a small fee.
Step 2: Start with a Strong Professional Summary
Even if you’re writing a cover letter, you’ll also want to include your LinkedIn profile and a strong professional summary on your resume. This is your opportunity to stand out and make yourself memorable, especially since recruiters are reviewing dozens or hundreds of resumes each day. Your summary can demonstrate your relevant skills and experience and allow recruiters to quickly learn more about you.
A good summary is short and to the point. Plan to write no more than 3-4 sentences. Include a brief depiction of your skills, as well as any clear goals or objectives you have for your career and what you can bring to the company. Try to avoid vague language that doesn’t add value ― the goal here is to hook the recruiter and make them want to learn more about you.
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Step 3: Highlight In-Demand Soft Skills
Soft skills are becoming more of a focus in today’s job market, so it’s worthwhile to include them when writing a resume. Employers are recognizing that hard skills can be taught, but soft skills are much harder to teach and can be extremely valuable to the organization.
These skills include, but are not limited to:
● Effective communication
● Teamwork and collaboration
● Ability to adapt to sudden changes
● Problem solving and critical thinking
● Conflict resolution
● Initiative and self-direction
● Ability to research
● Work ethic
You don’t necessarily need a whole laundry list of soft skills like the ones above, but you should use bullet points to highlight each one. Demonstrate these skills in your summary or when talking about specific achievements, as well as illustrate them in an interview if you’re invited to one.
Step 4: Only Include Relevant Details
Recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume. It’s heartbreaking, given that it probably took you hours to write it only for someone to form an opinion of you after just a few seconds.
However, use this to your advantage by being selective about what you include. You don’t want to give the recruiter too many extra details to sift through because your best achievements might go unseen.
Instead, focus on only the most important information based on the job description. Draw attention to impactful elements that will help you make a strong first impression. The “richer” you can make your resume in just six seconds, the more likely you are to stand out.
Step 5: Include Quantitative Results
Quantitative statements are those that are supported by data. Adding quantitative figures to your resume can strip away any vagueness and demonstrate specific achievements and results.
For example, instead of saying you managed marketing campaigns, focus on a specific campaign’s results, such as how much money or new leads it brought in. Or, instead of saying you brought in 50 new customers, you might say you added $1MM to the company’s revenue.
Even if you are not applying for a position where you will be judged based on quantitative results, numbers can help you get an interview. This helps employers see the merits of your accomplishments and demonstrates you understand the impact of your work.
Step 6: Front Load Action Words
Actions sell and can strengthen your achievements. Here’s an example:
● Responsible for a budget of $15M
● Managed a budget of $15M
Which one would grab your attention if you were a hiring manager?
Even when describing mundane activities or responsibilities, it’s important to begin each one with a strong verb. It gives action to your resume and makes your accomplishments feel more powerful.
Opt for powerful words that demonstrate authority, such as:
There are countless words you could add here. Make sure you’re not repeating the same word over and over in your resume.
Step 7: Focus on Visual Appeal and Readability
The way your resume looks is just as important as what it says. Resumes that are too crowded, hard to scan, or use poor font and color choices might not get the attention they deserve.
You don’t want your achievements to hide in a bad design. However, at the same time, you don’t want your “creativity” to look unprofessional. Good visual appeal doesn’t mean using over-the-top fonts, odd layouts, and multiple color combinations.
Instead, focus on an easy-to-read, organized layout with minimal designs and common fonts. Use formatting tools like Bold or larger font sizes for headers. A size 12 font is usually big enough for the bulk of your text content, but try to avoid anything smaller. Stick to professional fonts like Georgia, Calibri, Helvetica, or Times New Roman for the best readability.
It’s also recommended to limit your color choices. Use white for the background and black for text. A third color can be used to highlight specific parts of your resume, but choose a color that’s not too bright or hard to read.
Also, keep in mind that colors can appear differently on different devices or when printed on paper. It’s a good idea to test your resume on different screens or printers to get a universal feel.
Step 8: Tailor Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Resumes are often treated as a one-size-fits-all document, but this shouldn’t be the case. Granted, your work history and skills don’t change for every job you apply for, but you will likely gain more traction in your job search if you customize each resume to the job you’re applying for.
That’s because so many job searches today begin with an online application. Resumes undergo an automated process (referred to as an Applicant Tracking System, or ATS) before they ever reach a hiring manager’s desk. During this process, AI tools are looking for specific keywords and phrases to see if you meet enough of the basic requirements to move forward. If your resume doesn’t use the same language found in the job description, your resume might never make it to a human review process.
This means that even though you might be qualified for the job, you could get lost in the shuffle and never get a callback.
Ideally, you will create a basic resume template that can be easily tweaked for each job you apply for. Including words straight from the job description can help you get past automated applicant tracking systems. It also shows the hiring manager you’ve read the job description and understand its requirements.
Step 9: Proofread Your Work
This is such a simple step in the process that it’s often overlooked. However, any professional with business acumen already knows the value of having a second set of eyes to review important work before the intended party sees it.
It’s a good idea to hand over your resume to a professional proofreader that can catch glaring issues before you send it to a recruiter. Even minor errors like a spacing issue or typo can damage your credibility and make you appear unprofessional. It doesn’t cost much to hire a proofreader, plus you may gain valuable feedback in the process.
Also, if you have someone in your network that is in your same line of work or is a recruiter, it might help to have them give it a once-over. Someone who knows you well may be able to suggest achievements you might not have thought to add.
Step 10: Save in a PDF Format (Optional)
Most resumes these days are sent via email or online application systems. To preserve the formatting of your resume, it’s a good idea to save it in a PDF format so that no matter how your recruiter views it, it will appear the same to them as it does to you. PDFs are universal, plus it ensures your resume content will not become accidentally edited.
Formatting issues can create a poor impression, even if it’s not your fault. Most candidate tracking systems will allow a PDF upload so there should be no fear of compatibility issues.
If you do decide to create a PDF file, make sure you review your resume in the PDF prior to sending. Look for how your content appears at page breaks to make sure there’s no overlap. If there is, go back to your original resume and add a few spaces so that your content isn’t broken.
Professional Resume Example
Using all of the above resume writing tips, let’s look at an example resume you can use for inspiration.
Paul J Smith
Business Development Manager
1234 Ace St, New York, NY 10108 | Paul.email@example.com
Results-driven business development manager with a 15+ career in growth acceleration. Managed teams of 30+ employees, contributed to $2.4M in annual revenue growth, and initiated expansions into new markets. Seeking to increase profits for The Holding Company through controlling costs, opening new territories, and maximizing existing accounts.
● Diversity and inclusion training
● CRM and ERP
● Project management
● IT fluency
● Enterprise communication
● Team building
● Problem solving
● Critical thinking
● Active listener
● Sales persuasion
Business Development Leader 2013-2020
ABC Distributors, LLC
● Increased profitability within first year by 35%
● Identified cost-saving opportunities to curb $50K per year in expenses
● Discovered underserviced accounts to enhance revenue
● Researched organizations in the area to find new account opportunities
● Collaborated with HR to strengthen the new hire onboarding program
● Invested time and resources in sales team professional development
Business Development Strategist 2008-2013
● Contributed to an 28% sales growth year-over-year
● Rolled out new annual growth initiatives and oversaw implementation of strategies
● Worked closely with C-suite executives and sales managers to ensure a strong, steady path for realistic growth
● Created reports, documents, and SOPs related to growth initiatives
● Established and nurtured partnerships with multiple local and regional businesses to expand our footprint
● Pioneered new processes and techniques to improve efficiency
Sales Manager 2004-2008
Big Top Partners, Inc.
● Increased number of average target/quota achievements by 15%
● Managed a sales team of 17 employees
● Conducted team building and professional development activities
● Collaborated with senior sales reps to identify and remove inefficiencies in the sales process
● Reduced sales rep churn by 40%
● Established new follow-up procedures that resulted in increased sales and customer satisfaction
Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration
Graduated with honors
Elected VP of Future Business Leaders of America
ORGANIZATIONS & ACHIEVEMENTS
Member of Business Professionals of America (BPA)
Awarded Manager of the Year 2015
Resume Writing Tips: Final Thoughts
Knowing how to write a resume can be one of the most important skills you teach yourself. Ironically, it’s also a skill that if you do it well enough, you’ll rarely ever need to use it.
Start writing your stand out and winning resume today!